Exodus 34 (NRSV)
Moses Makes New Tablets
The Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke. 2Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain. 3No one shall come up with you, and do not let anyone be seen throughout all the mountain; and do not let flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.”
4So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone.
5The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” 6The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Psalm 103:8-12 (New International Version)
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
This revelation of the character of God to Moses forever puts away the idea that there is a bad God of the Old Testament which is in contrast to the good God of the New Testament. God’s character of love and mercy and grace is present in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament.
8And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
The Covenant Renewed
10He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform marvels, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation; and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11Observe what I command you today. See, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you. 13You shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles 14(for you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).
15You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice. 16And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.
17You shall not make cast idols.
18You shall keep the festival of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.
19All that first opens the womb is mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. No one shall appear before me empty-handed.
21Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing time and in harvest time you shall rest.
22You shall observe the festival of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year. 23Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. 24For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.
25You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, and the sacrifice of the festival of the passover shall not be left until the morning.
26The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.
You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
27The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. 28He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
Moses was with the Lord on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. News flash: Being transformed into the likeness of Christ and thereby reflecting his glory does not happen overnight! The old song says it well — “Take Time to be Holy.” Sung by the Biola University Chorale, 1986, at the Crystal Cathedral in California. (Hear the birds and fountains at the end?)
The Shining Face of Moses
29Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Psalm 34:4-5 (English Standard Version)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Matthew 17:1-3 (New Living Translation)
Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Acts 6:15 (New Living Translation)
At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.
30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.
33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
2 Corinthians 3:7-18 (New Living Translation)
The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!
Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
WALKING IN THE GLORY
One thing that can keep us going in the coming hard times is an understanding of God’s glory. Now, this may sound like a high, lofty concept to you, one that’s best left to theologians. But I’m convinced the subject of God’s glory has very real, practical value for every true believer. By grasping it, we unlock the door to an overcoming life!
The glory of God is a revelation of our Lord’s nature and being. You may recall from the Old Testament that Moses got a literal glimpse of God’s glory. Before then, the Lord had sent out Moses with no explanation of himself other than the words, “I AM.” But Moses wanted to know something more of God. So he pleaded with him, “Lord, show me your glory.”
God responded by taking Moses aside and putting him in the cleft of a rock. Then, Scripture says, he revealed himself to Moses in all his glory (see Exodus 34:6–7). The way God wants us to know his glory is through the revelation of his great love toward humankind. And that’s just what he revealed to Moses.
I believe this passage is absolutely essential to our understanding of who our Lord is. Often when we think about the glory of God, we think of his majesty and splendor, his power and dominion, or some manifestation in his people. All such things can be a result of seeing God’s glory. But this isn’t the glory he wants us to know him by. The Lord is forever waiting to show us his love, to forgive us, to shower us with his mercy and to restore us to himself.
The revelation of God’s glory has powerful effects on those who receive it and pray for an understanding of it. Up to this point, Moses had viewed the Lord as a God of law and wrath. He trembled with terror in the Lord’s presence, petitioning him, crying out to him, pleading with him on behalf of Israel. This had been the basis of his face-to-face relationship with the Lord.
Yet now, at the first sight of God’s glory, Moses was no longer fearful of the Lord. Instead, he was moved to worship: “Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (Exodus 34:8). He saw that God wasn’t just the thunder, lightning and piercing trumpet that had made him shrivel in fear. On the contrary, God was love and his nature was one of kindness and tender mercy!
Do you see the incredible truth Scripture is showing us here? True worship arises from hearts that are overcome by a vision of God’s unmerited love for us. It’s based on the revelation that God gives us of himself, of his goodness, his mercy, his readiness to forgive. So, if we’re to praise God both in spirit and in truth, our worship must be based on this awesome truth about him.
Once we receive a revelation of God’s glory, our worship can’t help but change. Why? Seeing his glory changes the way we live! It affects our countenance and behavior, changing us from “glory to glory,” making us more like him. Each new revelation of his love and mercy brings supernatural change.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.